Initiative 124 headed for the November ballot

The City Council voted 8-0 this afternoon to send Initiative 124 to the November ballot. The initiative enacts several important protections for hotel employees.

Last week the Council held a chaotic discussion, in which Council member Sawant tried — and failed — to grease the procedural skids to allow the Council to vote the initiative directly into law. The procedural block was cleared this afternoon, which would have let them vote it into law next week, but Sawant found no supporters among her colleagues for that approach. True to character, she called them out for what she sees as lack of leadership, but nevertheless joined them to quickly and unanimously certify it for the ballot.

Several Council members voiced their support for the measure, none more so than Lorena Gonzalez. The spoke of her time working in a hotel while she was in college, and how she had “the easy job” because she spoke English and was born in the United States. She said that after she finished law school she “dedicated her life” to survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Gonzalez noted that many of the women she represented were deflated and shattered, because when they had the courage to stand up and report sexual assault, they got fired. She stressed the critical need to protect these women.

None of the Council members besides Sawant mentioned the option to vote it directly into law, let alone explaining their reasoning for not doing so. It likely is a combination of factors: there is enough details and complexity to this measure that it would take weeks to move it through the Council’s standard legislative development process, but the deadline for certifying it for the November ballot is next Monday, August 1st.  So this is the legislative equivalent of the Pottery Barn rule: they can pass it through untouched and with its faults intact, but if they start modifying it they become responsible for every last problem — and for trying to negotiate disagreements. In that context, the short deadline is a blessing: an excuse to keep their hands clean.

And now the fight begins between the public “Yes on 124” and “No on 124” campaigns. Expect it to be loud and intense.